#302 Eat Healthily For Less
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"Shipping is a terrible thing to do to vegetables.
They probably get jet-lagged just like people."

Elizabeth Berry

9 Ways to Eat Healthily (and Cheaply)

By Joe Wilkes

Grocery ListBy now, most of us know what we should be eating—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish, among other foods. But anyone heading off to the supermarket with a shopping list of the best recommendations for a healthy diet is in for a bit of sticker shock. Over a two-year period, a recent University of Washington study tracked the costs of "nutrient-dense" foods (foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories) and "energy-dense" foods (foods high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals—aka junk).* The nutrient-dense foods rose in cost by almost 20 percent while the cost of junk food declined. The study found that getting your average day's worth of 2,000 calories from the junk side cost $3.52 while getting your 2,000-calories worth from nutrient-dense cuisine would cost $36.32. Since the average American spends about $7.00 a day on food, you can see where the rise in obesity might come from.

Other studies have shown similar findings. While the income percentage that Americans spend on food has decreased dramatically over the last few years, the obesity rate has risen even more dramatically, as has the incidence of type-2 diabetes, an obesity-related disease. And the obesity rate has grown the most in the most impoverished sectors of society, further emphasizing the connection between the rising costs of nutrient-dense foods, declining junk food costs, and rising obesity rates. If you've priced out what a nice piece of Chilean sea bass with a side of asparagus costs compared to the latest offering from your local fast food joint's dollar menu, it's easy to be tempted to go to the dark side—especially if your budget is shrinking more than your waistline.

It is possible, however, to eat healthily and still have some money left over. Even on the tightest budget, you can do a little legwork and research to make the most nutritious choices for you and your family. And even if you're fortunate enough to have the cash to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as my grandfather would say, "There's no point putting your paycheck through your stomach." (And he lived to be almost 100 . . . but that was before the advent of dollar menus.) Here are nine tips for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.

Watermelon

  1. 'Tis the season. Eating seasonally is the best way to get the most delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. When harvest time comes around for your favorite fruit or veggie, the market is usually glutted, and following the time-honored supply-and-demand curve, the prices of those fruits and veggies plummet. And not only is it cheap to eat fruits and veggies that are in season, it's the best time to get the most flavor for your money. Most fresh fruits and veggies sold in the off-season are either shipped from faraway lands or produced in greenhouse factories and don't have nearly the rich flavors produced by Mother Nature. It's a good time to stock up, eat what you can, and freeze or can the rest for a rainy day. If you're fortunate enough to live in a community with a decent farmers' market, it pays to get to know the men and women who are selling the produce. They can let you know when the best time to buy the best stuff is and give you a preview of what's coming up harvest-wise, so you can plan your menu accordingly.

  2. Canned VegetablesThe big freeze. Speaking of freezing and canning, these are great ways to save money and still have your nutritional needs met. Not only are frozen and canned foods way cheaper than fresh foods, in many cases, they're more nutritious. Fruits and vegetables are usually preserved within hours of harvest, when they have their maximum vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits and vegetables can take days, or even weeks, to make the journey from the field to your table. Add that to any time spent lingering on supermarket shelves and then your fridge's crisper drawer, and suddenly, fresh doesn't seem so fresh anymore. And for many recipes, frozen or canned might even be better than fresh. A pint of fresh off-season blueberries can cost more than $5.00 while a one-pound bag of frozen blueberries can cost less than $3.00. And the frozen berries will be a lot better in your morning smoothie. Any chef will tell you about the virtues of canned tomatoes over fresh ones when making your favorite pasta sauce. The only thing to be wary of is the sodium and sugar content in many canned goods or frozen veggies that contain high-calorie sauces or other not-so-healthy ingredients in not-so-healthy amounts.

  3. Clipping CouponsShop around. Smokey Robinson was right. It does pay to shop around. Check out those supermarket circulars that are stuffed into your mailbox every week. Each week, your supermarket advertises "loss leaders," including fruits, veggies, lean meats, and fish. Their hope is to lure you into the store with these bargains that they don't make so much money on and tempt you to buy extra high-profit stuff while you're there. But if you stick to your list, you can fill your cart with the loss leaders and save a ton of money. They'll usually be items that are in season as well, since they're cheaper for the store to buy anyway. Also, signing up for their club or rewards cards can help save you money, too. It's better to monitor sales and promotions rather than clipping coupons, as coupons are generally for processed, less healthy foods. Although, you can sometimes find good coupons for canned and frozen produce.

  4. ButcherGet to know your grocer. And your butcher, your produce manager, etc. Find out what day produce is delivered to the store so you get maximum freshness for your dollar. Find out from the butcher when meat goes into the half-off section as its expiration date approaches. The meat isn't spoiled yet, and if you cook or freeze it that day or the next, it's no different from buying full-priced cuts and leaving them in your refrigerator for a couple of days. Only your pocketbook knows the difference. Also, many butchers will custom-grind for you without charge. If a package of factory-ground turkey breast costs $6.00 a pound and a whole turkey breast costs $2.00 a pound, why not buy the whole breast and ask your butcher to grind it for you? You'll save a lot of money, and you'll actually know what went into the turkey burger you're eating.

  5. Farmers' MarketThink outside the big box. Instead of always going to the big-box supermarket chains, investigate if there are farmers' markets or food co-ops in your area. The food will be fresher, cheaper, and hopefully, not as coated with pesticides, waxes, or other unsavory elements. It's a good way to save money and support your local community at the same time. You can get organic produce for the same price or cheaper than traditionally grown produce this way as well. It's also worth checking out what your state defines as organic. Organic food is great, but if you're trying to save money, traditionally grown food isn't any less nutritious than organic; it just may require a little more scrubbing.

  6. Growing Your Own GardenStart your own farm. If you have a yard, start your own vegetable and/or herb garden. With a little online research, you can find out what grows well and easily in your neck of the woods. And if you're an apartment dweller like me, you can get a lot out of a container garden. I have big pots on my balcony that keep me in tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs all summer long. And if you don't have a balcony, you can grow small pots of herbs in your kitchen—decorative, tasty, and economical!

  7. Plan AheadPlan ahead. Take some time on Sunday to plan out your menu for the week for all your meals and snacks. Find out what's in season and on sale in your area. If you can only make one shopping trip for the week, front-load your menu with fresh ingredients and stock up on canned and frozen items for the latter half of the week. One of the areas where my budget always falls apart is not having the ingredients that I'll need or a plan for dinner; I end up grabbing takeout or having food delivered—both unhealthy and expensive. Just by planning ahead and not wasting money on unplanned restaurant meals, you'll find that you have a lot more money to spend at the grocery store so you won't have to cut as many corners for the meals you prepare.

  8. WaterTap into tap water. Not your wallet. If you're going to spend money on your beverages, invest in a decent water filter to improve the taste of your tap water. As we've discussed in other articles, tap water is subject to a lot more regulations than bottled water, which is good for you, and it's not shipped in from Fiji or Norway, which is good for the environment. And it's practically free! It's a lot better for your waistline and your wallet than multiple trips to the soda machine.

  9. Core Omega-3™Take your vitamins. Here's the easiest, most economical way to ensure that you always get a base level of proper nutrition. Taking a good multivitamin and fish oil supplement will help you get the benefits of a diet that would otherwise cost a whole lot more to get you the same nutrients you'd get from food sources—and fish oil supplements are especially good for those who don't care for fish.

* Don't confuse "nutrient-dense" foods with "high-density" foods, which is a common term for "energy-dense" foods. High density foods aren't always unhealthy but your diet should consist of mainly "low-density" foods which have few calories per volume, generally due to the presence of fiber. Foods in their natural state tend to be low volume. Processed foods tend to be high volume.

Related Articles
"10 Sensational Seasonals"
"Should You Drink Bottled Water?"
"Fish Oil: Nature's Miracle Ingredient"
"10 Foods You Should Eat"


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Joe WilkesCheck out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.



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6 Reasons to Eat Your Vegetables

By Jude Buglewicz

If you're like most Americans, you're probably eating only three servings of fruits and vegetables a day, if that. Big mistake. Research shows that the more veggies you consume daily, the better off you'll be, in terms of overall health and body weight. Aim for five to nine or even 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Here are six reasons why.

Fruits and Vegetables

  1. Helps you lose weight. Since fruits and vegetables have a lot of fiber, the more of them you eat, the fuller you feel. The beauty is that they're low in calories, so you wind up satisfying your appetite without exceeding your daily calorie allotment. Recent studies show that increasing your fiber intake by as little as 14 grams a day can result in weight loss of just over 4 pounds in 4 months. It's the fiber in the fruits and veggies that does it, which is why it's better to eat the whole carrot or apple than to drink carrot or apple juice. (See Steve Edwards' "The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit" in Related Articles below.)

  2. Vegetables 2Fights cancer. In a comprehensive review of the best research on fruits, vegetables, and cancer by an agency for the World Health Organization, the authors concluded that eating more vegetables "probably lowers the risk of cancers of the esophagus and colon-rectum" and "possibly reduces the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, stomach, larynx, lung, ovary, and kidney." Cooking certain veggies increases the body's ability to absorb cancer-fighting antioxidants—especially carotenoids (found in carrots). In fact, your body can absorb up to five times more carotenoids from cooked and mashed carrots than it can from raw carrots, according to a study led by Dr. Sue Southon of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich.

  3. Vegetables 1Promotes heart health. A 14-year-long Harvard study of nurses and other health professionals found that the more fruits and vegetables a person ate daily, the lower that person's chances were of developing heart-related health problems like heart attack and stroke. People who ate more than eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day were 30 percent less likely to have cardiovascular problems. For every extra fruit or vegetable serving a person ate each day, that person's heart disease risk dropped by 4 percent.

  4. Vegetables 3Lowers cholesterol. According to a study by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, people who ate more than four servings of fruits and vegetables a day had much lower levels of LDL or "bad" cholesterol than those who ate fewer servings.

  5. Reduces bowel problems. The fiber in fruits and vegetables relieves constipation and helps prevent diverticulosis and colon disease.

  6. BroccoliImproves vision. Eating your vegetables may help prevent vision problems associated with aging. The antioxidants in veggies (particularly dark-green leafy ones) fight damage from free radicals that harm the eyes and can lead to the development of cataracts (clouding of the eye's lens) and macular degeneration (damage to the center of the retina).

For more information on the benefits of eating organic produce, read Steve Edwards' "10 Reasons to Eat Organic—and Local" in Related Articles below. Then, when you're done reading—have a big salad (with a side of cooked carrots)!

Sources: Howarth, NC, Saltzman, E, Roberts SB. "Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Energy density of foods affects energy intake across multiple levels of fat content in lean and obese women." Am J Clin Nutr 2001:73:1010-1018. Vainio H, Bianchini F. IARC Handbooks of Cancer Prevention: Fruit and Vegetables. Vol. 8 Lyon, France, 2003. Southon, S. Knockout broccoli fights cancer. New Scientist 5 April 2003: 25. Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, et al. "Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease." J Natl Cancer Inst 2004; 96:1577-84. Djousse L, Arnett DK, Coon H, Province MA, Moore LL, Ellison RC. "Fruit and vegetable consumption and LDL cholesterol: the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Family Heart Study." Am J Clin Nutr 2004;79:213-7.

Related Articles
"The Whole Fruit and Nothing but the Fruit"
"10 Reasons to Eat Organic—and Local"
"5 Tips for Getting More Whole Fruit in Your Diet"


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


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Test Your Cheap (But Healthy) Foods IQ!

By Carla Lord

True or False?

  1. RiceTrue: Rice is a symbol of life and fertility. This is why rice is traditionally thrown after a wedding ceremony—to wish the newlyweds prosperity with their progeny. In fact, according to the U.K.'s Rice Association, the Finns go so far as to count the number of rice grains that land in the bride's hair to "determine" the number of children the couple will have. Traditions aside, it's also important to note that rice is the main staple food for over 50 percent of the world's population.

  2. True: An individual banana is known as a "finger." The "bunch" of bananas that you and I get from our local grocer or farmers' market is also known as a "hand," comprising 10 to 20 "fingers." A source of potassium and vitamins B and C, we all know and love the fruit of the banana, but did you know that many other parts of the plant are also used? The banana flower is used in Southeast Asian cuisine; the Japanese have been using banana fibers for clothing and other household goods for hundreds of years; and the leaves are used for anything from wrapping food in a luau to building houses in some third-world areas.

  3. PopcornFalse: Popcorn was invented in the United States in the 1800s. Actually, the first evidence of popped corn was found in a cave in New Mexico . . . from over 5,000 years ago! The first popcorn machine was indeed unveiled in the U.S. in 1885 by Charles Cretors. One year later, the Rueckheim brothers introduced Cracker Jack to the world. But remember, popcorn is only as healthy as what's on it, so it's always a good idea to watch out for that butter, salt, cheese, caramel, etc.!

  4. False: It's impossible to tell the difference between a hard-boiled egg and a raw egg without cracking it open. By simply spinning the egg on an even surface, you can tell the difference: a hard-boiled egg will spin freely (because it's solid) while a raw egg will only spin a few times (due to its viscous innards). Eggs, an excellent source of protein, are extremely versatile. (How do I love thee? Let me count the ways: scrambled, pickled, deviled, and poached, to name a few.) Everything in moderation, of course, but if you're watching your cholesterol, use the egg white and discard the yolk.

  5. CarrotsTrue: Carrots are not always orange. Legend has it that the orange, or western, carrot has its origins in the Netherlands in the 15th or 16th century; it gets its color from the amount of carotenes in its particular subspecies and was popularized because of the then-current struggle for Dutch independence (under the House of Orange). Carrots, which are also a source of antioxidants (they fight free radicals and have been shown in studies to protect against cancer and heart disease), can be white, yellow, red, or even purple!


If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Total number of Reviews: 2
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"great information...it helps to know why you do what you do...it encourages on-going healthy choice making during meal-times"

– deanna e burns, cleveland, OH

"I learned some new things - did not know some veggies were better for you cooked. I had always heard raw was best. Thanks."

– June Crisco, Searcy, AR

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